Torture: VIPS Calls for Full, Truthful Public Fact-finding Process

Promoted. Originally posted 2009-04-30 15:52:59 -0500. -- GH

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have issued a memorandum to President Obama calling for a full, truthful, public fact-finding process, either in the form of an investigation by a panel of judges, or as a Congressional investigation modelled on the Church committee of the 1970's.

The "action" part of their Memorandum reads as follows:

We of VIPS call for a full, truthful, and public fact-finding process to begin without delay.  We ask that you give careful consideration to Senator Carl Levin's suggestion that the attorney general appoint retired judges with solid reputations for integrity to begin the process.  Another viable possibility would be the appointment of an independent "blue-ribbon commission," perhaps modeled on the Church Committee of the mid-Seventies, to assess any illegal or improper activities and make recommendations for reform in government operations against terrorism.

We commend the administration for releasing the Department of Justice memos attempting to legalize torture.  We believe the remaining relevant information must be released promptly so that the citizenry can make informed judgments about what was done in our name and, if warranted, an independent prosecutor can be appointed without unnecessary delay.  We believe strongly that any judgments regarding amnesty, forgiveness, or pardon can only be made on the basis of a fully developed, public record-and not used as some sort of political bargaining chip.  Finally, we firmly oppose the notion that anyone can arrogate a right to ignore the Nuremburg Tribunal's rejection of "only-following-orders" as an acceptable defense.

The memorandum includes a short statement about the orginis of the group and its activities under the Bush administration. A list of signers is appended, along with an appendix of "other experienced intelligence personnel" from diverse branches of the services, who have spoken out publically.

The full text with the appendix can be found here at


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blue ribbon commissions that can hand out immunity like candy to their buddies in exchange for testimony that they can just as easil;y get out of them just by locking them away until they are willing to testify.

Nevermind the fact that there are enough known crimes and evidence to begin immidiate prosecutions and work the investigations from there.

Yes, it is a wonderful thing about this country that we can all have views about this, and can discuss them in light of what we think. Which is why it is kind of good and useful to see people with these kinds of qualifications stepping up to the plate again to express their views.

We can consider other questions too. Like this one, when it comes to considering just deserts, do the people who decide what the rules are carry a different kind of liability for what they did than the people who played by their rules. We can ask, I think, and expect to find answers, if Bush had not changed the rules of war would the people who tortured because he did that have been caught up in criminality in the same way as they seem to be now?

Are we well served to take comfort for ourselves in the cut and dried sincerity of our beliefs about who should be punished for what without considering what war crimes are, (this statement from the VIPS discusses aggressive war and the Nuremberg code, briefly, as what makes all the other crimes possible) what the standards of proof would be to support a case that could be upheld,  how the evidence to develop such a case might be obtained, and what the forum might be where such a case would best be heard.

It is a matter worth the effort of understanding, I think, and one which goes beyond Sands and the Spanish courts, which have picked up particular crimes actionable under their view of universal right as expressed by Spanish courts.

The US adopted as governing law, by the advise and consent process laid out in the constitution, the international treaties which were drafted to codify what had been adopted as standards of the law of war and peace at Nuremberg. I think the US is therefore in violation of its own law, but also of the international law. Bush scrapped Geneva, the lawyers said that was ok. The issue, it seems to me, will be whether those violations can be referred internationally, and thus what the non-US venue for the international violations will be.

Presumably the court at the Hague where Yugoslav war crimes (Milosevic) were tried. Then, what the conditions would be for action at such a level to proceed, or would the UN have to set up a special kind of tribunal process, where Bush and the henchmen, such as Blair, and the Australian guy, would be brought. Would it be a committee of the whole,or a specially constituted body. I think the authority of that Hague court, which Bush did not accept, derives from the UN.

I think this puts your concern about immunity into a different frame because one is supposed to consider the higher law before the lower, and one would want to proceed at the lower level (the US) without compromising the rights of all the other potential plaintiffs who might have standing to seek redress against what the US under Bush did.

I'm not sure that it will be so easy to familiarize Americans with these kinds of priorities, or to win acceptance for the idea that as their President is subject to law, so is their country by the laws it made its own. But of course, the US was among the prime movers for the convening of the Nuremberg tribunal. So there is the potential of an appeal to precedent.

If the political juridical process in the US is so corrupt that redress against the crimes which made others crimes possible (aggressive war, torture, civilian casualties, destruction of property, seizures of property of others (abrogation of oil deals and other commercial agreements),  is not obtainable here, it will not only be Americans who will search for a venue to petition for justice and redress. The rest of the world also has such an interest, for it is clearly not possible for the world to function when one party believes it has the right to make pre-emptive war when ever it likes, and the other believes that things can be settled through other means, including diplomacy and negotiation.